In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are now a common occurrence with more than 6 million people having been diagnosed with dementia.
Consequently, the U.S. long-term care system tends to rely heavily on informal caregiving. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (2021), 11 million family members, friends, acquaintances, or other individuals offer substantial assistance to people with ADRD for an extended period of time, and are often unpaid for their services.
As a result, the need to prioritize unpaid dementia caregiving as a matter of public health has been highlighted by the extent of ADRD and its potential to overwhelm informal (i.e., unpaid) caregivers in the United States. There are several ways to improve support for unpaid dementia caregivers in the future however, such as incorporating the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers (RAISE) Advisory Council’s recommendations into targeted, financially supported policies and services. Pathways to better support unpaid dementia caregivers in the future also include using the BOLD Act’s initiatives to elevate dementia caregiving as a key public health concern for state, local, and tribal public health agencies, as well as continuing the welcome investment in science to reduce the “pipeline” from scientific discovery to dissemination or implementation of promising dementia care innovations.
The policy recommendations made in this paper by Dr. Joseph Gaugler address issues with caregiving regarding those afflicted with ADRD. Additionally, it summarizes ongoing efforts to make dementia caregiving a higher priority for public health in the United States by use of the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure Act which was passed into law on December 31st, 2018.
Gaugler anticipates that with the family care gap likely to become a reality in the upcoming decades, evidence-based services and supports will become even more necessary. But by creating a stronger public health infrastructure to handle informal dementia caregiving, innovative local and national policy ideas will emerge that better address the numerous challenges of dementia caregiving.
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Gaugler, J.E. (2022). Unpaid dementia caregiving: A policy and public health imperative. Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 51–57. https://doi.org/10.1093/ppar/prac002